Melissodes illatus

Digger Bee
Melissodes illatus

 

Digger or Long-horned Bee Melissodes illatus female on Purple Coneflower. July 12, 2006. Wheatley, Ontario.
Digger or Long-horned Bee Melissodes illatus female on Purple Coneflower. July 12, 2006. Wheatley, Ontario.

Identification: Very small northern black species.
Female:
Head: Entirely shiny black with some gray-white to yellowish hair around antenna bases. Thin line of gray hair along inner eye margin. Top of head with black hair. Back of head with row of yellowish hair curving down to cheeks. Cheeks narrower than eye width. Mandibles black with yellowish-red tips.

Digger or Long-horned Bee Melissodes illatus female on Cup Plant. August 01, 2010. Wheatley, Ontario.
Digger or Long-horned Bee Melissodes illatus female on Cup Plant. August 01, 2010. Wheatley, Ontario.

Antenna: Entirely black, underside of segments slightly lighter. Segment 1 thin, twice as long as segment 2.
Thorax: Covered with short black hair. Segment 1 (scutum) has line of gray-white hairs along base and shoulders (humeri), extending down thorax sides. Segment 2 (scutellum) may have a few gray hairs along lower margin. Rest of sides mixed black and gray. Underside black.
Wings: Wing knobs (tegulae) black. Wings clear to slightly tinted. Veins dark brown to black.
Legs: Black with dark hair, and a few short white hairs intermixed; sometimes more gray-white on shins (tibiae). Pollen basket (scopa) has yellowish hairs, quite dense and feathery. Feet slightly reddish-brown.
Abdomen: Black, somewhat shiny. White stripes mostly thin.
Segment 1 almost bare; short white hair along base and very short hairs along side edges.
Segment 2 has a sparse fringe along base; stripe at mid segment, slants up to base, interrupted at center.
Segment 3 stripe at mid segment, interrupted or not.
Segment 4 stripe much wider across lower edge of segment; a triangle of brown hairs at center.
Segments 5 and 6 dark, no stripes with some long pale tufts at the sides of 5 only.
Underside dark brown, paler at sides.

Digger or Long-horned Bee Melissodes illatus male on Mallow. June 23, 2007. Wheatley, Ontario.
Digger or Long-horned Bee Melissodes illatus male on Mallow. June 23, 2007. Wheatley, Ontario.

Male:
Head: Hair long, pale yellowish-white on face. Top of head (vertex)  mixed brown and yellowish hair, with a line of yellowish hair at back of head. Cheeks much narrower than eye width, lower half covered with short, white hair. Area above mouth (clypeus) entirely bright yellow. Mandibles black, sometimes with small yellowish mark at tip.
Antenna: Base (scape) black. Segments long, black on top side, reddish-brown on underside. Segment 1 no longer than pedicel. Segment 2 very long.
Thorax: Mostly covered with long erect, thick black hair. A few gray hairs along outside edges. Underside has yellowish hairs, visible on lower thorax sides.
Wings: Wing knobs (tegulae) are dark. Wings slightly tinted, veins dark brown.
Legs: Hair dark, with row of pale fringes on each side. Feet reddish, underside with orangish hair.
Abdomen: Black with narrow white stripes at middle of each segment except last 2 segments which also have a small spine at each side edge. Tip with tuft of yellowish hair. Underside dark brown covered with pale yellowish hairs.

Similar Species: Melissodes druriellus female has brownish-yellow hair on back of head and thorax, not gray white as in female M. illatus. Male M. druriellus abdominal stripes are much wider than male M. illatus.  

Size: Female 8 to 11 mm. Male 8 to 9.5 mm.

Habitat: Forest edges and meadows.

Food: Feeds on nectar of flowers, Goldenrod, Aster, Mallow, Cup Plant, Purple Coneflower.

Flight Time: July to August.

Life Cycle: Unknown. Nests in the ground.

Comments: Essex County – Ojibway Prairies and Point Pelee.
Kent County – Rondeau Provincial Park. Extends north to Algonquin Park. Uncommon.

For information on synonyms, references and type specimens see next page

Melissodes desponsus

Digger Bee
Melissodes desponsus

 

Identification:

Female:
Head: Upper face has pale yellow hair. Top of head (vertex) has dark hairs. Back of head has line of yellow hair. Lower face (clypeus) has short black hair; clypeus projecting. Cheeks black.
Antenna: Base (scape) black. Segments black on top side; segments 2 to 10 brownish-yellow on underside. Segment 1 almost twice as long as 2.
Thorax: Collar yellow. Segment 1 (scutum) yellow, except for a small spot of black hair on lower part of segment. Segment 2 (scutellum) yellow; usually has a patch of black hair at center. Segment 3 (propodeum) sides black, center spot yellow. Thorax sides mostly black with pale yellow from shoulder pad to below wing base.
Wings: Wing knobs (tegulae) light brown. Wings very lightly tinted. Veins reddish-brown.

Digger or Long-horned Bee Melissodes desponsa female on Blanketflower. July 21, 2009 Wheatley, Ontario.
Digger or Long-horned Bee Melissodes desponsa female on Blanketflower. July 21, 2009 Wheatley, Ontario.

Legs: Hair on legs mostly black. Pollen basket has pale yellowish hairs not very feathery; base and tip with extensive dark brown hair. Note: If collecting on thistle, pollen on legs appears white. Underside of hind leg and feet reddish-brown to black.
Abdomen: No white hair band stripes. Lower margin of segments slightly reddish.
Segment 1 has short pale hairs at base.
Segment 2 has sparse, white fringe at base; lower half smooth, unpitted, shiny.
Rest of abdomen has sparse black hair.

Digger or Long-horned Bee Melissodes desponsa male on Blanketflower. July 09, 2009 Wheatley, Ontario.
Digger or Long-horned Bee Melissodes desponsa male on Blanketflower. July 09, 2009 Wheatley, Ontario.

Male:
Head: Upper face has pale yellow hairs. Top of head (vertex) has dark hair. Lower face (clypeus) yellow, projecting with dark hairs on each side, extending to cover cheeks. Mandibles black with an orange tip.
Antenna: Base (scape) black. Segments very long, black on top side, underside of 2 to 11 brownish-yellow. Segment 1 very short.
Thorax: Entire thorax has thick pale yellow. Thorax sides with some black near legs.

Wings: Wing knobs (tegulae) black. Wings very lightly tinted, veins brown to dark brown.
Legs: Entirely black, except underside of hind shin (tibiae) pale. Feet reddish-brownish.
Abdomen: Lower margins slightly reddish-brown.
Segment 1 has thick, long pale yellow hair across the base half, with short black hairs at side edges.
Segment 2 may have short white fringe at base. Rest of abdomen has black hair.

Similar Species: Melissodes dentiventris female has yellow hair on cheeks and all legs. Melissodes desponsa female has black cheeks, front and mid legs. M. dentiventris male has all yellow legs. M. desponsa male has entirely black legs.

Size: Female 12 to 13.5 mm. Male 11 to 13.5 mm

Habitat: Forest edges and meadows.

Food: Feed on nectar of many flower, but a specialist colleting pollen for its nest provision only from thistles Cirsium, Cnicus and Carduus.

Flight Time: Mid July to September

Life Cycle: Nests made in the ground.
Parasite: Cuckoo Bee Triepeolus donatus – (John S. Ascher, in lit. 2004, unpublished data from observations and specimens in New York state).

Comments: Essex County – photos. Kent County – Rondeau Provincial Park. Niagara Peninsula, Toronto to Kingston. Also southern Michigan (Livingston County).
For information on synonyms, references and type specimens see next page

Melissodes bimaculatus

Two-spotted Digger Bee
Melissodes bimaculatus

 

Two-spotted Digger Bee Melissodes bimaculata female on Ironweed. August 22, 2013 Wheatley, Ontario.
Two-spotted Digger Bee Melissodes bimaculata female on Ironweed. August 22, 2013 Wheatley, Ontario.

Identification: Unmistakable. Both male and female are all black with yellow hind legs.

Female: Entirely black. Underside of antenna brownish-yellow. Hind shin pollen basket (scopa or corbicula) has yellowish-white feathered hair. Abdomen segments 2 and/or 3 may have traces of white at lower side edges. Segment 4 has white bar on each side edge.

Two-spotted Digger Bee Melissodes bimaculata male on Purple Coneflower. July 20, 2004 Wheatley, Ontario.
Two-spotted Digger Bee Melissodes bimaculata male on Purple Coneflower. July 20, 2004 Wheatley, Ontario.

Male: Hair whitish on upper face and top of head (vertex). Lower face (clypeus) very pale yellow with 2 dark spots. Mandibles dark with some yellow at base. Very long antenna, black on top side, brownish-yellow on underside. Middle and hind shin (tibiae) covered with white to yellowish-white hair. Abdomen has obscure, thin whitish marks at side edges of 3 to 5. Marks on 5 longer.

Size: Female 13 to 15 mm. Male 11 to 13 mm.

Two-spotted Digger Bee Melissodes bimaculata male on New England Aster. September 23, 2013 Wheatley, Ontario.
Two-spotted Digger Bee Melissodes bimaculata male on New England Aster. September 23, 2013 Wheatley, Ontario.

Habitat: Forest edges and meadows.

Food: Pollen and nectar from a variety of flowers.

Flight Time: Mid-July to late September

Life Cycle: Ground nesters. Parasitized by Cuckoo Bee Triepeolus lunatus.

Comments: Essex County – Ojibway Prairies, Point Pelee.
Kent County – Rondeau Provincial Park

Synonyms: Lepeletier 1825
Macrocera bimaculata, Macrocera binotata, Macrocera nigra, Melissodes melanosoma

References:
Boston Journal of Natural History, 1834-37, Vol. 1 by Say, pp. 404 to 405.
Psyche, 1894-96, Vol. 7, pg. 25.
The Canadian Entomologist, 1905, Vol. 37, by Cockerell, pp. 266 to 267.
North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station, 1962, Technical Bulletin #152: Bees of the Eastern United States by Mitchell.

Types:
Holotype as Macrocera binotata male & female by Say, 1837. Type Locality: unknown. In National Museum of Natural History, London, England.
Holotype as Melissodes melanosoma male by Cockerell, 1905. Type Locality: Fedor, Texas. In California Academy of Sciences, Institute for Biodiversity Science & Sustainability, San Francisco, California. Type #15507. No photos.

Sleeping Arrangements

Two-spotted Digger Bee Melissodes bimaculata male
Two-spotted Digger Bee Melissodes bimaculata male on Purple Giant Hyssop July 22, 2016 Leamington, Ontario.

The Two-spotted Digger Bee  Melissodes bimaculata is named for the white patches on each side of the abdomen of the female. The males showed up first, (no patches) on English Lavender and Purple Giant Hyssop, around July 15 last year (2016). At night they slept by hanging on to the leaves of Obedient Plant Physostegia virginiana.

 

 

 

Cuckoo Bee Triepeolus lunatus male
Cuckoo Bee Triepeolus lunatus male on Obedient Plant July 16, 2016 Leamington, Ontario.

By July 22, the Cuckoo Bees Triepeolus lunatus showed up, at least 5 females and 1 male. They all hung around the Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta).
Triepeolus lunatus females hunt for the Two-spotted nests and lay eggs in their cells. When the Cuckoo larva hatches, it either eats the egg or the larva, and then feeds on its nectar/pollen mixture stored in the cell.

 

 

Two-spotted Digger Bee Melissodes bimaculata female
Two-spotted Digger Bee Melissodes bimaculata female on Big Bluestem flowers Aug 17, 2016 Leamington, Ontario.

The Two-spotted females showed up around the first of August, favoring the Giant Purple Hyssop and were quite attracted to the pollen on Big Bluestem. They spent the night in their nests near the Obedient Plants.

 

 

 

 

Cuckoo Bee Triepeolus lunatus female sleeping
Cuckoo Bee Triepeolus lunatus female sleeping on Obedient Plant Aug 04, 2016 Leamington, Ontario.

But the others all slept together on the Obedient Plants! Both the male and female Cuckoo Bees and the Two-spotted males. Not on the same leaf, but very close and quite comfortable with each other.

Two-spotted Digger Bee Melissodes bimaculata males sleeping
Two-spotted Digger Bee Melissodes bimaculata males sleeping on Obedient Plant July 28, 2016 Leamington, Ontario.